BUFFALO, N.Y. — With the Blackhawks sputtering for a second consecutive season and eying a rebuild, an icon from their dynasty is at the center of trade rumors.
Duncan Keith, the veteran defenseman who has spent his entire career in Chicago, could be on his way out if he decides to waive his no-movement clause. He’s under contract through 2023, though, and hasn’t considered leaving.
Keith did not say definitively whether he was open to a trade. He originally intended to finish his career with the Hawks after agreeing to a 13-year, $72 million extension in 2009.
“I signed my contract, [so] that would be the first thing I would think about,” he said after the morning skate Friday at KeyBank Center. “I haven’t really thought too much about anything. You get reports out there, I don’t know where that stuff kind of comes from. I just take one day at a time.”
Keith said the Hawks haven’t asked him about a trade, but that conversation could come soon. General manager Stan Bowman, who travels with the team, was in the arena Friday morning.
Keith remains prominent for the Hawks and leads them with 22:40 of ice time per game despite being 35 and in his 14th season. While he’s no longer in his prime, he’s still one of the best options they have defensively.
Coach Jeremy Colliton continues to play Keith, who has one goal and 20 assists, and said, “I think he’s been good.”
But the team opened the second half of the season in last place in the Central Division. With the trade deadline three weeks away, the Hawks will likely be desperate to unload big contracts like Keith’s if they can find a taker.
Contenders might be interested in adding a proven defender with three championship rings if they have space to absorb his $5.5 million salary-cap hit for the rest of this season and the next four.
That’s where this has the potential to entice Keith. If he was interested in going to his hometown Jets or another heavyweight, that could be better than riding out however long it takes the Hawks to get rolling again.
“I’m not going to start getting into all that and create a bunch of stories here about what I would think I would do, speculate on how I would feel,” Keith said. “Not getting into that.”
He also isn’t assuming a prolonged stay in the gutter for the Hawks.
“What’s a rebuild or a retool? Who knows what that is?” Keith said. “I don’t know what that is.
“The league’s different now. One year you’re good, the next year you’re not. I don’t really think too much about it. Just play my game. Makes no difference to me.”
Spotrac projects the Hawks’ salary-cap commitment for next season at $69.1 million, and they need to be mindful of a likely extension for Alex DeBrincat as they vie for free agents such as Artemi Panarin.
Their biggest contracts beyond this season belong to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. After those two, it’s defensemen Keith and Brent Seabrook. Seabrook’s cap hit is
$6.9 million through 2024.
Keith has a full no-movement clause for the length of his deal. Seabrook has one through 2021-22 and a partial no-trade clause the next two seasons.
Seabrook, by the way, dismissed a question about opening himself up to a trade two weeks ago.
“I don’t think we need to talk about that,” he said. “[Bowman] hasn’t come and talked to us about any of that stuff.”
Keith has been with the organization since 2002, when the Hawks drafted him 54th overall. He was instrumental in their Stanley Cup titles in 2010, ’13 and ’15. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2015, ranks third in games played for the franchise and is a four-time All-Star.